Charter for Choice


Under-16s can now buy EC – imminent collapse of society predicted

The recent decision to allow under-16s to purchase Ella One (the emergency contraceptive pill that works up to 120 hours after sex) unsurprisingly caused a bit of an uproar. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt MP said he was “uncomfortable” with the idea and the Family Education Trust criticised the decision stating it will “encourage adolescents to engage in casual sex” despite a complete lack of evidence whatsoever that this would be the case (although why let that get in the way of some good hang-wringing?) While the FET and others believe teens will be popping EC like Smarties, the extortionately high-cost (£35-40) and stigmatising pharmacy consultation will still act as a barrier to access, as Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett argued in the Guardian. Until we lower the price and put emergency contraception on the shelf, many women of all ages will continue to find it difficult to access this perfectly safe method of contraception.

Another new round of guidance on alcohol during pregnancy

In an attempt to make government guidance less confusing for pregnant women, the BMA has, well, added to the confusion by stating that pregnant women should be advised to abstain completely from drinking (alcohol, not water. Although expect guidance on number of units of fruit squash per week shortly.) The BMA also said women needed “more explicit” warnings on alcohol labels. The idea that women should be told to abstain is based in part on the rather patronising assumption that women can’t understand what “moderate” levels of drinking are, which, as Dr Pat O’Brien of the RCOG says, is simply not the case. Worryingly, the end result of all this scaremongering is needless guilt and worry that lasts even beyond the nine months of pregnancy, as new mother Robyn Wilder explained in her piece for The Pool. So we agree with Ella Wheelan – we need to fight back against the constant policing of pregnant women’s behaviours, and trust women with the evidence to make their own choices.

MPs call for abortion clinic buffer zones as harassment prosecution of anti-abortion protester is overturned

Following the news that an abortion clinic is to close as a direct result of protest activity – a first in the UK – Diane Abbott MP and Caroline Lucas MP have taken up the fight for abortion clinic buffer zones in parliament, calling on the government to introduce legislation to enable protesters to be moved away from the clinic doors. The Home Office continues to insist that police have the powers to deal with the protesters, yet the decision on Monday 29th June to overturn a conviction for harassment of an anti-abortion protester in Belfast suggests otherwise. During a campaign of intimidation, Dawn Purvis, Marie Stopes Belfast clinic manager, was followed when leaving the clinic with her son and was told by anti-abortion campaigner Bernadette Smyth “You ain’t seen harassment yet, darling.” When anti-abortion protesters are legally allowed to follow and intimidate women and clinic staff, it’s clear that our current laws are not fit to deal with this growing problem. If you haven’t done so already, please email your MP asking them to support the buffer zones campaign.

To freeze or not to freeze (your eggs when you’re thirty, that is)

Over the last month, we were treated to separate “fertility timebomb” front pages with the combined message of: women – procreate or freeze those eggs before you’re 30 or else. The Mail on Sunday reported that a fertility specialist has warned many women are walking blindly into infertility and needed to be advised to try to start trying for children in their twenties, while the Telegraph managed to slightly misrepresent a study on IVF to suggest that women face a “fertility cliff edge” at 35 and so should freeze their eggs before this age . Needless to say, in both these instances the science was side-lined in search of a dramatic headline. As the New Statesman reported, women have a very good chance of conceiving and having a healthy pregnancy throughout their thirties. Women are acutely aware of their fertility and there are completely understandable reasons why many may decide to have children later in life. They might not have met the right person, they might want to own a home that isn’t the size of a garden shed, they might want to have one of those career things men seem to enjoy so much (this news round-up may be written by a single, childless woman in her late twenties with a grudge to bear.) So less of the haranguing, please. Thanks.
Northern Irish women ‘hand themselves in’ to the police over abortion prosecution

Over 200 incredibly brave abortion rights activists in Northern Ireland effectively handed themselves in to the police to challenge what Amnesty describes as the country’s draconian abortion laws. The action follows the decision to prosecute a mother who bought abortion medication online for her very young daughter who was facing an unwanted pregnancy. 214 activists signed the letter published in a Belfast newspaper admitting to either the consumption of abortion pills, or assisting women in the procurement of an abortion and asking to be arrested – both crimes which carry lengthy prison sentences. We applaud this courageous action, and are proud to have these activists as our Champions of Choice. Northern Ireland’s abortion law makes criminals out of innocent women for simply trying to access essential healthcare. We hope that this will spark the debate and change women of Northern Ireland so desperately need.